Monday, November 24, 2014

Sexual Harassment Sanctions Against Outgoing Roosevelt Island Assemblymember Micah Kellner Reversed On Appeal - Kellner Charges Assembly Ethics Committee A "Kangaroo Court Doing Speaker Silver's Bidding"

Outgoing Roosevelt Island and Upper East Side NY State Assemblymember Micah Kellner

received some good news regarding his appeal of sanctions imposed by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver against Kellner for allegedly sexually harassing female members of Kellner's staff.  According to the November 10 decision of Appeal Hearing Officer Howard A. Levine (text of full decision):
... I conclude that the appealed June 10, 2014 determination of Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver should be, and it hereby is, upheld in part, with respect to the findings that Member Kellner violated the Speaker's December 30, 2013 admonishment and directives by having an intern working in his district office and then attempting to obstruct the climate survey by instructing his staff members not to disclose the intern during the survey.

The June 10 determination is reversed as to the findings that Member Kellner violated the 2009-2010 Sexual Harassment Policy by his conduct toward two female staff members, and the matter is remitted to the Speaker for reconsideration of the sanctions to be imposed in light of this decision.
Capital New York reports today:
A hearing officer has dismissed a second round of sexual harassment charges against outgoing assemblyman Micah Kellner, and has asked Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to review his June order stripping Kellner of his official offices.

Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat, was hit with two complaints by the Assembly's bipartisan ethics committee, both stemming from allegations that he inappropriately touched and communicated with members of his official staff in 2013. Kellner has apologized for his actions, but in December of last year was sanctioned by Silver after a committee report

The committee hit Kellner again in June, after it found he was employing an intern in violation of the December sanctions and in light of additional accusations of harassment. Kellner unsuccessfully appealed his initiation sanction, but the decision on an appeal based on the second round of sanctions was issued on November 10 and released by Kellner to reporters on Monday.....
The New York Daily News Tweets:
and adds:
... Kellner opted not to run for re-election this year in the wake of the allegations against him. He remains an elected district leader.

The Manhattan Democrat has been fighting sanctions Silver imposed against him last year after the Assembly Ethics Committee found he violated the chamber's harassment policy and created a hostile work environment for a female staffer in 2009 and a man in 2011...
Mr. Kellner lost the Democratic Party nomination for NYC Council District 5 (representing Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side) and the General Election running as the Working Families Party candidate to Ben Kallos in 2013.

More on the sexual harassment allegations brought against Mr. Kellner from previous posts here and here.

Mr Kellner issued this statement today regarding the decision on his appeal of sexual harassment allegations:
On November 10th Speaker Sheldon E. Silver's hand picked Appeals Officer, Howard Levine, found the following regarding the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee's decision to recommend sanctions in June 2014 against me to the Speaker for violating the Assembly sexual harassment policy:
  • That the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee and it's investigator, Merrick Rossein violated provisions of the Assembly's revised sexual harassment policy written by Rossein. (See Pg. 20)
  • In their rush to judgement, the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee and Rossein violated my constitutional right to due process. (See pg. 20-28)
  • Levine accuses Merrick Rossein of attempting to mislead him regarding certain facts in the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee's flawed investigation. (See Pg. 24, Citation 7)
  • Levine questioning the evidence before him, accuses Rossein of misusing confidentiality to obscure facts in an attempt to manufacture evidence where he lacked it. (See Pg. 26, Citation 9)
  • Levine accuses Rossein of violating the appeals process Levine set forth by making arguments in secret. (See Pg. 26, Citation 10)
Ultimately, Levine dismissed the sexual harassment findings against me, remitting the sanctions back to the Speaker for reconsideration, while illuminating in scathing detail the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee and it's investigator Merrick Rossein's inability to follow their own procedures or conduct a fair process. (See Pg. 30)

It is Speaker Silver's responsibility to act upon his Appeal Officer's decision; to either accept or reject it and reconsider the sanctions. Speaker Silver had no qualms about releasing previous decisions when it was convenient for him, but when it is not he actively chooses to violate my rights once again by ignoring this damning decision and pretending it does not exist. Instead the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee has just last Thursday re-accused me of the identical false allegations that Speaker Silver's own hand picked appeals officer dismissed only days earlier- proving conclusively that the Ethics Committee is nothing more then a kangaroo court doing Speaker Silver's bidding.

Speaker Silver put my appeal in the hands of a lobbying firm, assuming they would also do his bidding because it was in their financial interest, but when they showed a shred of fairness Speaker Silver, making this up as he goes along, decided to ignore his hand picked appeals officer and ham handily invoke double jeopardy.

Much has been made about the cost of these false allegations. It has cost my constituents equal representation and two hard working, honest public servants their jobs. So I say it is time to end this farce. Speaker Silver should accept his hand picked appeals officer's decision, fire Merrick Rossein as outside counsel and demand the resignation of Chuck Lavine as Chair of the Assembly Ethics Committee, but I am not holding my breath.
Last June, former Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Matthew Katz noted:
I am appalled at the vindictiveness of Speaker Silver and, having known and worked with Assembly Member Kellner since he entered State politics, reject the charges mounted against him. Further, I have to wonder why Silver is withholding grants to organizations within the 76th AD, especially Roosevelt Island. Why are we being tarred with the same brush used against Micah?
There has been no comment yet from Speaker Silver on this matter.